2019 marks a quarter of a century since Val Williams’ curated her seminal exhibition, Who’s looking at the family? at the Barbican in London. In photography, a lot has changed over 25 years, including the introduction of new technologies that have reshaped the way in which we make and consume images, and the changing definitions of what constitutes a photographer.
“On the one hand I thought it might be interesting to speculatively chart that development, but also to rethink notions of the family at the same time,” says Tim Clark, editor of 1000 words magazine and curator of this year’s Photo50 exhibition at London Art Fair. “The idea seemed to chime with a lot of people. I think that’s the key point about family, it’s a great unifying subject. Everyone can relate to it.”
“From the 1890s through to just after the Second World War, modern artist couples forged new ways of making art and of living and loving,” Jane Alison, head of visual arts at London’s Barbican, says. She’s putting the final touches to Modern Couples: Art, Intimacy and the Avant-garde – a mammoth endeavour that examines how the work of individual artists and writers was shaped by the relationships they embarked on with each other.
The show spans painting, sculpture, literature, dance, music, architecture and photography, and includes ephemera such as personal photographs and love letters alongside artworks. It’s also far from a cursory look at the history of art’s favourite romantic pairings. The likes of Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West, or Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, have their part to play here, but so do lesser-known affiliations, from Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore to George Platt Lynes, Monroe Wheeler and Glenway Wescott, whose enduring ménage à trois turned their travels around Europe into an intensely fruitful creative experience.
Our annual portrait edition returns with Jono Rotman’s photographs of New Zealand’s most notorious biker gang; Faces Places, a collaboration between French filmmaker Agnes Varda and street artist, JR; Richard Billingham’s return home for his cinematic portrayal of Ray & Liz; and a selection from this year’s Portrait of Britain, our nationwide exhibition taking place across JCDecaux screens up and down the country. Our journey begins with Jono Rotman’s photographs of New Zealand’s largest, most notorious biker gang, the Mongrel Mob. Though he is looking at the subculture as an outsider, Rotman eschews a traditional documentarian approach to his subject matter. In doing so, the project’s scope extends beyond the mob itself to touch upon issues related to New Zealand’s charged colonial past and self-professed biculturalism, the politics and ethics of portraiture, and the intersections of seemingly disparate human experience. With Brexit on the horizon, Portrait of Britain has never felt so timely, putting citizens centre stage across high streets, shopping malls and major transport hubs throughout September, asking us to reflect on who we …
“It asks, inevitably, questions about who we are. Who we are in Britain, or who we are in the world. It asks questions about legacy, my own life, and cycles; the very folding of time,” says Vanessa Winship of her latest project, the ongoing series And Time Folds. “It’s difficult to say exactly what it is about because I don’t really know what it will end up being,” she adds.
Winship was the first woman to win the prestigious Henri Cartier-Bresson Award back in 2011, and she now has a major solo show opening at London’s Barbican Art Gallery on 22 June, also titled And Time Folds. It features over 150 photographs including previously unseen projects and archival material; it also includes her newest series, a mixture of “completely different, random formats” and found objects, inspired by her granddaughter and “how she frames herself in the world in relation to seeing, hearing and touching”.
“They’re all driven by motivations that are both personal and political to a degree, and they are all self-initiated projects,” says curator Alona Pardo of the photographers in the show Another Kind of Life: Photography on the Margins. “Some may have started as commissions, but very early on took on a life of their own. It was interesting to think about the role of the photographer, because often the photographer hides behind the camera as a facade. There is also an interesting subtext of the photographer occupying the position of an outsider within mainstream society. They are there, assertively documenting the world.”
Vanessa Winship’s biggest UK show to date, the first UK retrospective of Dorothea Lange, and a huge group exhibition including work by photographers such as Mary Ellen Mark, Dayanita Singh, Alec Soth, Chris Steele-Perkins, Daido Moriyama, Diane Arbus, Pieter Hugo, Bruce Davidson, and Boris Mikhailov – they’re all coming up this year at London’s Barbican Centre, in a season titled The Art of Change.
Tate was famously slow to institutionalise photography, staging its first photography show (Cruel + Tender: The real in the 20th century photography) in 2003, and appointing its first photography curator, Simon Baker, in 2009. Now, hot on the heels of its acquisition of Martin Parr’s 12,000-strong photobook collection, its now made another major commitment to photography, appointing Kate Bush in the new post of Adjunct Curator of Photography. Bush, who was previously Head of Photography at the Science Museum Group, and prior to that Head of Art Galleries at the Barbican Centre in London, starts at Tate Britain in October.
One of the first subjects photographers turned to when photography was invented was architecture. Given the limitations of early cameras, it was crucial that buildings, unlike people, did not move. Or talk back, for that matter. And, importantly, if you argue that a primary mission of early photographers was to symbolise the imperialist enterprise by making an inventory of the material things of the world – which the colonialist powers largely owned – then architecture was one of the camera’s most vital subjects. [bjp_ad_slot] For example, PH Delamotte’s 1855 album about the removal of the Crystal Palace to its final site in Sydenham is not only one of the great examples of early architectural photography, it is first and foremost a company report. It provides the first example of the qualities the writer David Campany invests in the photography of architecture – that it is document, publicity and commentary. Actually, Campany also adds art, but we’ll come to that later. His thoughts on photography and architecture appear in the catalogue Constructing Worlds: Photography and Architecture …